Though not a heavy favorite when the Babe Ruth 13-15 Mid-Atlantic Regional Tournament got started in North Syracuse last week, Valley Little League nearly pushed its way into the semifinals, only to get thwarted at the end of pool play.
Valley joined nine other teams from across the Mid-Atlantic region, all of them vying for a trip to the Babe Ruth World Series, to be held later this month in Arkansas.
Composed of players from Westhill, Corcoran, Tully, Jamesville-DeWitt and Onondaga, Valley played in Pool B with Piedmont (Del.), Mifflin County (Pa.), South Colonie (from the Albany suburbs) and St. Mary's (Md.).
As luck would have it, Valley had to play twice on Thursday, the only team to do so on the opening day of the tournament -- where it went through both extremes.
Seven runs in the first inning helped Valley rip Piedmont 10-0 at North Syracuse Junior High School on Taft Road, but it went to the other extreme later that day at the nearby Gillette Road complex, losing to Mifflin County in a 9-0 decision.
Thus, Valley had to beat South Colonie Friday night at Gillette to keep itself in the picture. And after falling behind 2-0, Valley used its big bats to take charge, getting four runs in the second inning and six runs in the top of the third to make it 10-2.
South Colonie made a brief comeback, but Valley kept tearing up the opponent's pitching, tacking on five more runs in the fourth inning and, through the mercy rule, winning 17-5 in five innings.
Now at 2-1, Valley entered Saturday's game with St. Mary's with a simple goal -- win, so it could advance to the semifinals.
But St. Mary's, playing with desperate urgency, scored a run in the first inning and two more in the b0ttom of the fourth to go ahead 3-0. Valley came back, using a three-run fifth inning to tie it, 3-3, but St. Mary's answered with a tally in the bottom of the sixth that proved to be the game-winner.
The 4-3 defeat left Valley at 2-2, done with pool play. It now had to sit back and hope South Colonie lost to undefeated Mifflin on Sunday at NSJHS if it wanted to stay alive.
Mifflin led, 1-0, going into the sixth inning, but South Colonie tied it there, then used four runs in the top of the seventh to win 5-1 and end Valley's title dream.
Team members included Jamie Boronczyk, Sean Fitzpatrick, Marcus Fortin, Lenny Graf, Cory Hewitt, Dan Karleski, Tyler Kirwan, Nathan Nigolian, Allie Ragovin, Jake Rush, Steve Schad, Mark Syron and Rob Warner.